Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive Interview: Arthur Levine

It was such a pleasure for me to interview one of my favorite people in the children's book world: Arthur Levine.

Arthur A. Levine is a Vice President at Scholastic Inc. and the Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, a literary, hardcover imprint of Scholastic. He is also an author and has a new book coming out (keep reading to find out more about it) in Spring 2011.

Let's jump right in...

Welcome, Arthur!


You'll be presenting a master class (Strong Emotion on the Page) during this year's summer conference which will take place for one hour each day of the conference. Can you tell us a little about what you have in store for those participating?

I'm still working out the exact details of what will happen. But my plan is to get everyone in the class to examine what elements go into producing writing that is full of emotion. Personally I find that without that I can't get too excited about a book -- of any sort! Fascinating nonfiction? Might be a great subject, but if there's no emotional component I don't care. Hysterical humor? That's great, but truly, if there's no emotional journey then I'm going to lose interest after a few laughs. You get the picture. We're going to do some exercises and talk and see if we can all get some insights into what might bring that emotional life out in each person's work.

You've been an active participant at SCBWI conferences for many years, as well as a member of its Advisory Board. Do you believe it's in a writer and/or illustrator's best interest to attend SCBWI conferences, and if so, why? And when in their career do you feel it's most appropriate?

I think there's a tremendous amount to be gained by coming to an SCBWI conference. There's a wonderful comaraderie about them that I think people who work in an isolated environment (i.e. writers and artists) really appreciate. It's a great opportunity to humanize and demystify the "powers that be" in the publishing world; to realize that editors and art directors are human and not so scary. And it's a great opportunity to learn things -- about craft, first of all. But also about the business.

What it's NOT is a place to audition for publication. I think some authors and artists feel pressure to come to a conference and GET NOTICED because otherwise they have no chance of being published. And nothing could be farther from the truth. You could be the shy person sitting in the back of the room listening carefully and not saying a word, who writes to me later and says, "I heard what you said about the need for non-stereotypical Asian characters, and therefore thought you might be interested in my novel about a Korean-American basketball player whose twin hates sports."

So people could benefit from coming to a conference at any stage of their career -- at the beginning when they want to know how things work, and want to get their bearings. Or in the middle when they want to figure out how to keep their career going. Or as a highly successful person at the top of his or her game when they want to give back and/or find ways to continue to be inspired.

Tell us something you're excited about coming from Arthur A. Levine Books in the near future, perhaps something that exemplifies strong emotion on the page?

I'm very excited about THE MEMORY BANK by Carolyn Coman and Rob Shepperson. To me this takes the vivid prose and dark humor of a Roald Dahl and combines it with the driving emotion of a girl desperately trying to find her lost sister. Unforgettable! But I think all our books have strong emotion of some kind; check 'em out on http://www.arthuralevinebooks.com/

You started blogging yesterday on the first day of summer. Welcome to the blogosphere! What made you decide to dive in and go for it?

I had meant to blog earlier. I mean YEARS earlier; there's even a button on my website that says "Arthur's Blog." But I just couldn't make myself do it. I think what changed was that my book, MONDAY IS ONE DAY got closer and closer to publication and now has an actual pub date in Spring 2011. That kinda revived my internal identity as a writer, which gave me a little confidence to actually try WRITING some more. Of course for years I'd been admiring the blogs of writers like you and Lisa Yee, of librarians like Betsy Bird, and of editors like our own Cheryl Klein. So I thought what the heck, might as well DIVE IN and force myself to go public.

My original idea was to call the blog COUNTDOWN TO MONDAY, and to try posting something every Monday until my book was published. I haven't quite figured out the whole naming-of-the-blog-thing, but I still hope I'll be able to post at least once a week.

You can find Arthur's blog HERE.

Arthur, you'll no doubt have many readers. I look forward to many blogs posts to come, as well as MONDAY IS ONE DAY.

Thank you, Arthur!

Haven't registered for the conference yet? No problem. Here's the place go for it!


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Great interview! It made me wonder about a picture book manuscript's emotion on the page - and how that emotion is carried by both the words and the illustrations. Good stuff!
Thanks to Jolie and Arthur,

Sara Easterly said...

Awesome interview, Cuppa and Arthur! Can't wait to get my hot little hands on your book, Arthur... and will be satiated with your blog, in the meantime.

Martha Brockenbrough said...

Loved this interview, Jolie. I can't wait to read Arthur's book (and his blog). Yay!

Deb Lund said...

Great to hear both your voices. Congratulations, Arthur! Thanks, Jolie!

Lisa Yee said...

Hooray, wonderful interview!!!

Unknown said...

Great interview. Thanks!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Nice interview, Jolie! I loved going to the conference last year and seeing people like Arthur Levine speak and moderate panels. It was such an inspirational weekend that I'll be doing it again this summer. See you there!

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for the interview and the link to his blog!

Cuppa Jolie said...

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, everyone!

And, really! How great is it that Arthur is blogging?